Sidewalk Trip and Fall Injury and the De Minimis Rule in Illinois
Our firm with co-counsel recently reached a settlement on behalf of a client that suffered a trip and fall injury on a sidewalk. The client, a senior citizen, was walking into a bank when she tripped on unlevel concrete. The sidewalk was in poor condition and in an area of heavy foot traffic. She landed face first and broke both her front teeth. Our biggest challenge in the case was overcoming the de minimis rule in Illinois.
Slip and fall law Illinois
Under slip and fall law Illinois, a defendant will be held liable to the person who fell where the injury was caused by the property owner’s negligence. To show negligence in Illinois, the plaintiff must prove that the property owner failed to fulfill its duty to prevent the fall and that it caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
If the defendant is found negligent, liability will be under a theory of contributory or comparative negligence. Contributory negligence means that the victim is at least 50% at fault for the injury. Comparative negligence means that the victim is less than 50% at fault for his or her injuries. As a general matter, it can be difficult for a victim to recover under contributory negligence. Under comparative negligence, damages will be reduced by the proportion that the victim was found to be at fault.
One important defense that the defendant may have in Illinois is the de minimis rule.
What is the de minimis rule in Illinois?
The de minimis rule applies where someone is injured in a sidewalk injury case. The de minimis rule holds that the defendant will generally be liable for the victim’s injuries where there were sidewalk deviations approaching two inches in height. However, the Illinois courts have held defendants liable for deviations less than two inches. The courts also look at other factors besides height, like congestion, nearby distractions, as well as any evidence that the defendant was aware of the defects.
For instance, in a local case from 2018, Bartkowiak v. City of Aurora, 2018 App (2d) 170406, the plaintiff was injured when tripping over a hole in a parking lot that was approximately 1.5” deep. The trial court held that the de minimis rule prevented the plaintiff from recovering. The appellate court, however, disagreed with the trial court. The court held that since the depression was in a congested area likely to be frequented by pedestrians, there was broken asphalt in the area, and the defendant was aware of the hole the defendant could be held liable.
Likewise, the deviation in the sidewalk in our client’s case was less than 2” in height. As experienced slip and fall attorneys Illinois we were able to demonstrate to the defendant that we would be able to overcome the de minimis rule at trial. Not only was the sidewalk in poor condition it was located in a heavily congested area. Many other firms would have refused to take the case, believing that the rule would result in their client’s case being thrown out. Our firm, however, has many years of experience representing clients in sidewalk injury cases.
If you or someone you know have been injured in a sidewalk injury case, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options. If you have previously discussed your case with counsel and were informed that your claim was barred by the de minimis rule, please contact us today for a free consultation.
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